In 2010, the award went to BP CEO Tony Hayward, who told cameras “I’d like my life back” after his company’s massive oil spill killed 11 workers.
In 2011, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) nabbed the award, for obvious reasons.
In 2012, Senate candidate Todd Akin (R-MO) became notorious for his claim that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Who will join their ranks this year? Read on…
Number Three: Lance Armstrong Rides Into Infamy
After years of denying doping allegations, suing former teammates, and bullying everyone who got in his way, cycling champion Lance Armstrong finally admitted what many people already knew: that he was a dishonest cheat.
Armstrong selected Oprah Winfrey for his on-air confessional, a lengthy interview aired on two consecutive nights. But Armstrong’s carefully parsed and evasive responses did more harm than good, leaving an indelible impression that he was still being untruthful (Oprah even asked whether he was a sociopath).
For example, Armstrong denied doping after 2005. But evidence presented by the USADA suggests he doped through 2009; if true, he lied during his admission.
One of his lowest moments came when discussing a phone call with Betsy Andreu, wife of cyclist Frankie Andreu. When recounting the phone call, Armstrong seemed to find it funny that although he admitted calling her “crazy” and “a bitch,” he didn’t call her “fat.” He grinned at his apparent wit, as if he was a mischievous kid who thought his cruelty was somehow funny.
In another stunning moment, he admitted that he couldn’t remember everyone he had sued because he had sued so many people.
A Survey USA poll taken shortly after the interview found that only 17 percent of respondents thought he was being completely honest. Those are probably the same people who tell pollsters the U.S. Congress is doing a good job.
In the clip below, Armstrong tells Oprah that he “deserves” to be allowed to compete again.
Number Two: Paula Deen Cooks Up Trouble
Paula Deen, the Food Network’s southern-cooking celebrity chef, found herself in hot water (or, more appropriate to her style of cooking, a vat of butter and lard) in June after The National Enquirer released details of racist remarks she’s made in the past.
During a legal deposition in a workplace discrimination suit, Deen admitted using the N-word in the past and making racist jokes.
But the most shocking moment may have come when she admitted that she wanted to emulate a wedding she had recently attended in which the wait staff was made up of “middle-aged black men.” That wedding, she said, evoked fond feelings for her of a Civil War-era “really southern plantation wedding.”
Deen made the mistake of waiting two days to apologize personally—and when she did, her apology (her first of several) was a mess—one of the worst I’ve ever seen.
A few days later, Ms. Deen sobbed through a bizarre, out-of-control, and uncomfortable interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show.
With better crisis management, Deen could have come through this crisis less scarred. Yes, she would have paid a price—but I’m convinced that her poor crisis response contributed mightily to the magnitude of her disaster, which included the loss of her Food Network contract and several lucrative endorsement deals.
She may eventually redeem herself enough to make a good living again, but it’s unlikely she’ll ever reclaim her one-time success.
Number One: Rob Ford Cracks Up
It’s hard to imagine too many people keeping their jobs after the year Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has had.
In May, the U.S. website Gawker published a report claiming they had seen a video of Ford smoking crack. Ford denied those allegations for months, until finally admitting that he had, in fact, smoked crack.
But Ford didn’t simply admit smoking crack. He blamed reporters for his earlier lack of candor by claiming their questions months earlier had been asked using the wrong tense (“Do you smoke crack cocaine?” as opposed to “Have you ever smoked crack cocaine?”)
He also added a new page to the crisis communications playbook by casually blaming his drug use on being in a “drunken stupor.”
But Ford’s lowest moment—and the one I’m naming the worst video media disaster of the year—has to do with his casual mention of the amount of oral sex he receives at home.
During a press scrum, Ford denied charges that he had sexually harassed a former special assistant named Olivia Gondek. But the manner in which he did it was shockingly crass and unnecessarily graphic.
Ford capped off that ignominious day with yet another spousal indignity. He called a press conference to apologize for using such graphic language to describe his sex life. As he stood before reporters, his humiliated wife stood on the side of the stage, her eyes cast downward.
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